Newly passed legislation will mean changes for unlicensed daycares in Missouri

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. Newly passed legislation will cut down on the number of children allowed in unlicensed home daycares in Missouri.

Senate Bill 336 is known as Nathan's Law, named after a little boy who died in an unlicensed daycare in Jefferson County in 2007. Its goal is to keep kids safe.

Right now, unlicensed home daycares can have four unrelated kids, and an unlimited number of related children. But the new legislation would cap the total number of kids at 6 under kindergarten age, and no more than three under 2 years old.

"We all know that the smaller ratios means better care, better quality care," says Nicole Piper, The One Stop for Early Childhood director. "There's more supervision that's available."

Early childhood advocates have been pushing for smaller ratios in unlicensed daycares for a decade. "So it's something that we are excited about, because it will potentially decrease the deaths, decrease the injuries and help make kids safer," Piper says.

Unlicensed daycares with too many children would be reported through a hotline call. The state would do a site visit and investigation. Then, providers would have 30 days to meet the standards or face civil fines from $750 to $2,000.

Pamela Pfeiffer has been running her own daycare for more than 23 years. She became licensed about 10 years ago. "It can be overwhelming," says Pfeiffer. She spent thousands to meet the standards, adding things like a fence and a sink, but she believes it was worth it.

"If I can do it, anybody can do it," says Pfeiffer. "Because I went from having really nothing to this. It has grown." With her daughter's help, she is licensed to care for ten children. It's a process many unlicensed daycares may now have to go through, or cut down on the number of children they watch.

"There's so many out there that, oh gosh, just so many that are keeping kids that really should not be, and I feel, if you're going to do it, at least get training," Pfeiffer says.

Now, she can't get enough knowledge. She encourages others who love kids to take the next step. "They [state inspectors] come in, and they're like, we don't worry about you, because you're always doing what you need to do. And I'm like, awesome. So I just tell everybody, don't be scared." says Pfeiffer.

Senator Jill Schupp's office staff say the governor worked with them on the legislation, Senate Bill 336, and supports it. They say the bill has an emergency clause and will go into effect as soon as Governor Parson signs it.

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